Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 27 August 2008) . . Page.. 3845 ..
if her partner does not believe she has any rights. Therefore we must bring women and men along in this debate.
This is always going to be an emotive debate. It is never easy—for very few women is it easy—to make that decision to have an abortion, especially when there is so much stuff hung around it. It is very hard to tell how much of what a woman feels is her own emotion and how much is the emotion that is put on her by the moral right, which has turned it into a moral issue. I am not sure whether it really belongs in that territory, but that is where it is at the moment.
Nonetheless, this is an issue about women’s reproductive rights—her rights and her health, both things. Don’t forget maternal mortality, the 500,000 women who die each year around the world. It is an unfortunate figure and it does not budge very much. A lot of those deaths are in botched abortions or in pregnancies that should never have gone ahead because women lack the health, lack the nutrition and would not be having that baby if they had their way. Just remember that in the so-called saving of the foetus’s life you could be destroying the woman’s life.
I want to comment on another thing. When I was doing that research, it became fairly obvious that some of the states where abortion was outlawed on moral grounds were also the places where women who went ahead and had those babies—especially single mothers, poor women and so on—were very frequently shunned. And very frequently there were not social welfare systems to help them along. It was okay: they had their babies; they were supposed to. But society did not come along and help them.
There are many issues around this. If we care about social justice, we also care about women’s rights, women’s health and women’s empowerment. It is up to men to speak up for women as well. I cannot see us ever losing this legislation in the ACT. Women will get up again, as they did last time. They will not want to. They do not think they should have to fight for this one again; we have already won it. Because it works, because it gets women out and because it attacks women where it hurts most, I expect we will have to fight for it again sometime. But I can tell you that I sincerely hope not.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (9:23): I am very pleased to rise tonight on this important motion put forward by Mr Gentleman. I thank him for raising it; this is an important matter for the Canberra community.
The one big, absent figure in this debate is the Leader of the Opposition. He just does not want to be here for this debate. You would expect that, as the alternative Chief Minister, this man above all others would be here to set the record clear and straight on what his position would be if a member put forward legislation to in some way impact on the progressive law reforms that we now have in place here in the territory or indeed what would be position of his government and the governing party should they be in that position after the 2008 election.
I have been on the record for some time as supporting a woman’s right to choose and recognising that it is the choice of the individual woman which is paramount when it comes to these matters. As you yourself said in this debate, Mr Speaker, an abortion is